Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
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This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Americans Support Expansion of Renewable Energy, Surveys Show
Summary.Public opinion surveys in the U. S. show that more than two-thirds currently
think there is solid evidence that the earth is warming.The surveys find the public supports
expansion of renewable energy.A
majority of Republicans among survey respondents are included in this
supporting class.One survey reports
that Republicans believe their elected representatives do not “care much about”
what they think about climate change.
respond to poll results such as these and coalesce around efforts to expand
renewable energy.Many policy
justifications exist to support this position.
Introduction.Climate scientists from all around the world overwhelmingly agree that
manmade greenhouse gases have contributed significantly to increased long-term
global average temperatures over the last several decades.They foresee a future by the end of this
century, and beyond, having profoundly higher temperatures and consequent
harmful impacts on human welfare and planetary climate conditions.The substance of these projections of future
harms has not changed since the first report from the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change in 1990.
the world, especially those representing countries that are major emitters of
greenhouse gases, have been unable to arrive at an agreement for a meaningful
reduction in these emissions.Nevertheless,
in the U.
the public has gained increased appreciation that global warming is an issue
that needs to be addressed.This post
summarizes some recent public opinion surveys of attitudes toward global warming.
PewResearchCenter surveys over the first months of 2013 are summarized here.Their survey in February 2013 found that 69%
of Americans think there is solid evidence that the earth’s average temperature
has been increasing in recent decades.The trend for this question since 2006, as well as for the question of
whether warming arises mostly because of human activity, is shown in the
graphic below, which includes survey results from March 2013.
Survey results over
2006-2013 showing the percent of Americans thinking that the earth is warming (top, bronze) and that thewarming
is due to human activity (bottom, gold).
The graphic above
shows that American public opinion bottomed in 2009-2010, both on whether the
earth is warming, and on whether warming is due to human activity, and has
increased significantly since then.American
belief that humans have caused global warming has consistently been at least
20% lower than agreeing that warming is occurring at all.
There is a
dependence of attitudes about global warming in the U. S. on affiliation with a political party or
outlook.The Pew survey in March 2013
shows that U. S. Democrats (more liberal) are far more likely than U. S.
Republicans (more conservative) to agree that global warming is occurring, and
that it is due to human activity (see the table below).
attitudes about global warming on political identification.“Rep”, Republican; “Dem”, Democrats; “Ind”, politically independent or unaffiliated.
There is also a
stark division by political affiliation about whether Americans regard global
warming to be a problem, according to a Pew survey from October 2012.A majority of Democrats believe it is a very
serious problem, but only one-fifth of Republicans do.Conversely, only 1 in 6 Democrats believe
global warming to be either not too serious a problem or not a problem at all,
whereas more than half of Republicans fall in these two groups.
show that there is strong support for renewable energy in the U. S. across the political spectrum.A survey of 1,022 subjects in all 50 states
gave results having a 95% confidence level with a ±4% error.Respondents were given a choice of placing
more emphasis, less emphasis, or about the same emphasis, as currently done for
supplying our energy needs from various sources.They chose “more emphasis” by large margins
for solar power (76%), wind (71%), and natural gas (65%), with much lower
preferences for more emphasis for oil, nuclear energy and coal.Breakdowns by party affiliation in this
survey are shown in the following table.
It is seen that
Republicans strongly support more emphasis on solar power, wind, and natural
gas, but also oil.About half of
Republicans further support more emphasis on nuclear power and coal.Democrats, on the other hand, overwhelmingly
support more emphasis on solar power and wind energy, with less than one-third
supporting oil, nuclear power or coal.
Climate Change Communication project.GeorgeMasonUniversity’s Center for Climate Change Communication
and YaleUniversity’s Project on Climate Change Communication
have been collaborating on the attitudes of Americans on global warming over
the past several years.They released a
new report on April 2, 2013 providing results of a survey of U. S.Republicans on the subject of climate change.
938 people who had identified themselves
as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents in a previous survey taken in
Fall 2012 were called back in January 2013 for this survey; 77% of those agreed
to participate.Important findings are
More than half
of Republicans surveyed think that climate change is happening.52%
agreed, 26% did not agree, and 22% didn’t know.
A large majority
supports expanded use of renewable energy.These Republicans
support much more (51%) or somewhat more (26%) use of renewable energy. (In the survey, “renewable energy” consists of
solar, wind and geothermal energy.) Most
of these (69%) felt measures should be started “immediately” toward this
The survey also
probed this issue from the converse perspective. 51% of Republicans indicated
that the U. S. should use fossil fuels (i.e. coal, oil and natural gas)
somewhat less (31%) or much less (21%) than today.Only 22% favored increased use of fossil
fuels, giving a ratio of about 2.5 to 1 favoring less use.
benefits of reducing use of fossil fuels outweighed perceived “costs”.(As
seen below, “costs” does not refer to monetary costs, but to social and
economic factors.)Respondents could
choose more than one from among 9 listed benefits and 6 listed costs.The three benefits chosen most frequently,
among 538 of those surveyed, were “help free us from dependence on foreign
oil”, “save resources for our children & grandchildren”, and “provide a
better life for our children & grandchildren”.The benefit listed as “limit climate change”
was next to last.The two highest
perceived costs chosen among 477 of respondents were “lead[ing] to more
government regulation” and “caus[ing] energy prices to rise”.
weighed the benefits, costs, and other factors 64% of Republicans think “we
SHOULD take action to reduce our fossil fuel use”, whereas 35% think “we SHOULD
NOT take action” (capitalization in the survey as reported).
politicians’ responsiveness to people.The Republican respondents showed an apparent
skepticism or alienation concerning their ability to influence political
decisions.More than half“do not think elected officials care much
about what people like me think about climate change”, and think “people like
me don’t have any say in what the government does about climate change”.Only 8% think “elected officials pay a lot of
attention to the views of people like me” on this issue.
Surveys from three
different polling organizations are summarized here.Polling results can be partly influenced by
the way that poll queries are phrased.Yet the poll results reinforce one another quite consistently, making
clear that overall they reflect the thoughts and feelings of the American
expanding support and/or development of renewable energy sources such as wind,
solar and geothermal energy.The reasons
given for this widened support cover a broad range, including achieving energy
independence and expansion of a new economic sector with its attendant growth
in job opportunities.
In the U. S. Congress, Republicans have opposed development
of renewable energy.There may be many
factors contributing to the development of policy positions among legislators,
including responsiveness to the wishes of constituents, sensitivity to economic
interests, and development of support for retaining elected office.In this regard it is significant that the survey
results from all three polling organizations show that respondents who identify
themselves as being avowedly Republican or favoring Republican positions
strongly support development of renewable energy sources.
responding to the Climate Change Communication survey more than half think
climate change is happening, and three-quarters of them support more or
somewhat more use of renewable energy.After weighing perceived benefits vs. perceived socioeconomic costs
about two-thirds of Republicans surveyed think we should act to reduce use of
fossil fuels. The Pew and Gallup surveys found comparable support among Republicans.Anecdotally, the New York Times reports on April 9,
that the Republican mayor of Lancaster, CA, a desert community with plenty of
sunshine, is undertaking to install sufficient solar photovoltaic capacity to
generate more electricity than his city needs.
The Climate Change
Communication project found that of the Republicans surveyed more than half
felt alienated or ignored by their elected representatives.If this is a valid representation of
attitudes held by the officials, it suggests they pay more attention to other
considerations than to taking the opinions of their constituents into account.
shows that the fraction of Americans that thinks global warming is occurring,
and that human activity is a cause, is growing in recent years.The majority of Americans think growth of
renewable energy sources should be supported.More than half of Republicans, and in certain surveys many more, are included
among those supporters.Many reasons,
most having to do with national security and economic factors, are identified
for this support.Explicit
identification of global warming or similar environmental concerns is low on
this list.Elected officials who are our
policymakers at the national level should pay heed to survey results such as
these.They should support expansion of
renewable energy sources for all the reasons mentioned in the Climate Change